Story by DoodLeS
The four Neverhoodians stood around the strange... THING they had found, carefully examining it and talking about where it might have come from. When they had arrived at the Castle it had been there, right in front of the main entrance, standing there and staring motionless somewhere at nothing. It didn't look dangerous, but the four Hoodians had never seen something like that before... And yet it was strangely familiar... They decided to report it to Hoborg.
"Hoborg! Hoborg!" they came into the Throne Room in quite a high speed. Hoborg, who sat on the ground and talked to some other Hoodians sitting around him, turned to the newcomers.
"What is it?" he asked in his deep, pleasant voice.
The four Hoodians stopped in front of him, a bit out of breath, and said: "Outside. Did you know there's standing a.... something?"
Hoborg stood up and looked at his sons.
"Something? What something? Can you be a bit more...detailed, maybe?"
"A Something. Or maybe..." the four guys looked at each other, then back to Hoborg, "...maybe a SomeONE..."
Hoborg waited, as the Hoodians looked at him, waiting for a "Well, what?", which didn't come. So they continued:
"Well, it looks more like a SomeONE, but it doesn't move. It's just standing there. And it looks strange."
Hoborg thoughtfully crossed his arms. "So, a... statue, or something?"
Nervous looks from the four guys.
"Noooo..... not a statue. It looks too life-like for a statue."
"And it hath got eyeth and thtuff." said another one.
"And it seems.... familiar, somehow. I can't say why." continued the third one.
Hoborg put his arms down again.
"I guess it's best when we all go and check it out, don't we?" he commented, already heading towards the door. The four Hoodians and some others who had become curious followed him, hesitatingly.
The "thing" still stood there, still lifeless. As Hoborg arrived at the Palace entrance he stopped abruptly when he saw the figure.
"Willie?" he asked unsurely. The first thing that caught his attention was the hoop on the subjects head. But then Hoborg realized that the being, or whatever, looked lots different from his longtime friend Willie Trombone. For a start, the clothing of it were a red-blue shirt, beige shorts and blue boots. Hoborg only saw the stranger from behind, so he could just see that he (?) was yellow-fleshed like ole Willie and the body-height was pretty much the same, but it had no spikes on its back, and the hoop looked more like a beige helmet...
Hoborg went a few steps forward so he could see the front of the being. A few Hoodians surrounded him and the creature, watching silently.
Hoborg looked at them. "Please, you all... better stay away until I know who this is and why he's here."
With faint groanings the onlookers parted and went into various directions, trying to mind their own businesses. Only two Neverhoodians remained next to Hoborg - Klimo, one of the four who had found the being, and Rem, who was just too curious to leave.
Hoborg eyed at them both, but only shrugged as they looked at him with the "We won't leave"-look. He turned back to the motionless stranger. Even from the front he (yes, surely a 'he'...) looked definetely a bit like Willie, although Wil would never hold THAT still. Now Hoborg could see some more details on the being: It had one spike in the middle of its chest, the red shirt had a blue triangular decoration around the neck and the figure wore a blue belt. The look on its face was absolutely neutral, and the being didn't even blink when Hoborg waved his hand in front of its eyes. But the strangest thing was the arm of the creature - while the right arm looked quite normal, just with a little box-like device put around the wrist, the left arm looked like...
Hoborg carefully knocked one finger against the beings' arm. A little 'ping' sound could be heard. Metal (meaning, very smooth and very hard klay). The whole left arm looked like... a robot's. Hoborg thought of Big Robot Bil. The arm and claw-hand of that creature seemed to be a small version of Bil's. Only it had four fingers. REALLY strange. Maybe this being IS no being, but a very cleverly made robot? Anyway, it seemed to be broken.
Hoborg turned around to Klimo and Rem, who had positioned themselves behind him, just to make sure.
"I don't think it's dangerous", he said, "I don't know WHAT it is, but I DO know that it looks lots like our friend Willie... this can't be coincidence."
"Could it be a trap or somethin'?" Rem asked, fascinated of the strange being.
Hoborg shortly looked again at the creature, which looked as peaceful as a strange alien being could look like.
"No, I don't think so. It more looks like it could use our help... We could bring it inside the Castle, somewhere where it can't hurt anybody IF it is a "trap or somethin'", and there we can see what to do. I think we could call for Willie - maybe he knows something about that fellow..."
While Hoborg was talking to the other two Hoodians, no-one noticed the sudden blink of the being. Then its eyes moved, just the eyes and very slowly, into Hoborg's direction. Another blink, and a happy grin formed on the face.
"... we should still be careful, though", said Hoborg in this moment, turning around another time.
The grin of the creature's face disappeared at once, and by the time Hoborg had turned around, the stare of it was pointing at nothing again.
They tried to lift the figure, and it turned out to be quite easy - it seemed to be stiff like stone and it wasn't half as heavy as it looked like. So Hoborg and Rem took it at shoulders and legs and carried it carefully into the Castle, Klimo walking in front of them, opening doors and pressing the elevator-call. In the elevator they put the being back to the ground. Rem leaned his arm on the metallic shoulder of the stranger.
"You know..." he said to Klimo with a grin on his face, "I think this chap would be the perfect conversation partner for my brother. He could listen to Thull's whimpering for hours and hours, and he wouldn't even complain. Maybe we can repair that thing so that it nods all the time, Thull wouldn't even notice that it's a robot."
He didn't notice that the "robot" looked at him, with an unsure expression and a nervous blink. The eyes sprang back to "looking ahead" when Rem turned his head to grin at the creature, knocking on the beige hoop-helmet, producing a little 'kling' sound.
"How do you know it's a robot?" asked Klimo, who stood behind the being, staring at its back.
"Oh, come ON", answered Rem, polishing the hoop with his left hand, "what else should it be? You don't really think it's alive, do you?"
"Bil is alive", Klimo stated, "AND he's a robot."
"Yeah right." Rem chuckled. "But Bil also MOVES. But THIS fellow here isn't exactly what I would call a party guy."
The elevator stopped. Grabbing the figure again Hoborg and Rem brought it to this upper part of the Throne Room, placing it on the ground. IF it was dangerous they would always have the chance to flee or find a good hiding place, since the room was full of curtains, stairs and dark passages and corners.
"Wait here while I try to fetch Willie." Hoborg said and left through one of the main entrances. Then his head appeared again in the doorway. "Keep an eye on him, if he moves tell me at once."
"Yeah yeah." Rem said in a laid-back voice. "We'll report you at once when our sleeping beauty finished its little nap."
Hoborg left again. For some minutes nothing happened, Klimo and Rem stood wordlessly next to the being, Rem again leaned on its shoulder and looked down at the door, Klimo still stared thoughtfully at the beings' back.
Then Hoborg returned, and with him was Willie, interestedly looking around as if he'd never seen the Throne Room before.
"That's him, Willie." Hoborg said, pointing at the stranger, "I thought YOU might know him perhaps."
Wil walked over to the being, examining it from hoop to toe, then positioned himself in front of it, staring into its eyes, becoming almost as motionless as his similar looking opposite. After a while Rem leaned a bit forward to look at Willie's concentrated face, waving his hand between the two hooped fellows.
"Heeeellooooo..." he said quietly, "Anybody home?" He turned to Klimo. "Do you think it's contageous?"
Another short eventless moment later Hoborg started the conversation again. "Well? Do you know him?"
Willie blinked and turned around to Quater's son, with a smile on his face. He said, in quite happy tones: "No."
All remained silent, except for Rem, who restrainedly started to snicker about the clueless faces around him.
"No?" repeated Hoborg, to make sure.
"No." Willie reassured him. "Me never seen before. But looking like good friend to play."
"Drats." Hoborg mumbled, then continuing in a more steady voice, "Okay then. I guess it is best now to assemble all Hoodians and to ask if SOMEone knows something about this guy. He MUST have come from somewhere, right? Come with me, Willie, we'll tell them all to come here and check him out."
So they both left again, followed by the stares of Rem, Klimo and, unnoticed, the being. Its left arm creaked a bit as it dropped its shoulder under the weight of Rem still leaning on it. Rem looked around, quickly taking his arm away from the creature. He could have sworn that it had moved its eyes, right before he could really see into its face...
"Be careful!" Klimo said behind him. "If you break it we could be in real trouble!"
Rem just looked suspiciously at the beings' face.
"What is it?" asked Klimo as he noticed Rem's expression.
Rem looked up at his fellow Hoodian. "Oh, nothing", he mumbled, still in thoughts. "I just could swear..."
"What?" Klimo came closer to Rem and tried to find out what he was staring at.
Rem slowly lifted his left hand in front of the being's face and waved hesitatingly. "Hey!" he exclaimed. "I... I just saw you moving!"
The being looked at him.
A second later Klimo and Rem were on their way to Hoborg, who was at the Big Tree, talking to some assembled fellowers.
They stopped a few inches in front of him, breathing heavily, with staring big eyes. Hoborg looked at them.
"What happened?" he asked.
Klimo was the first who regained his voice: "The.... the BEING!"
All Neverhoodians around them became interested.
"What?" asked Hoborg.
Klimo and Rem were still out of breath. Then Rem sprang into action. He grabbed Hoborg's belt that was put around his chest and shook it.
"It was HORRIBLE! It looked at me with its evil, red gleaming eyes and tried to grab me! If I weren't so fast it'd surely have torn me apart with its claws!!!"
Silence and stares from all around. Klimo, who had calmed down a bit, looked at Rem. Then at Hoborg.
"Actually, it... HE... has moved his BROWN eyes", he said in a much more normal tone.
Rem slowly let off Hoborg's belt, eying back to Klimo. "Yes", he muttered a bit hurt. "Say, you have no sense for dramatics, do you, Klimo?"
He remembered something. "Hey!" he exclaimed, "It's still in the Throne Room! And it's alone!"
Hurriedly they got back to the Castle, using the teleporters to save time. When Hoborg, Klimo, Rem and all the other Hoodians who had heard the news arrived at the Throne Room, the being still stood there. They stopped.
Yes, it stood there, STILL motionless at the same place as before. But... its posture had changed. When they first had found it, it really had looked like a statue, stiff and strained, looking straight ahead... NOW it stood there like a quite normal being, with his arms hanging down in a more relaxed way, legs slighly x-crossed - and the eyes were pointing at them.
Now nobody moved... The Hoodians were staring at the being, and the being was just staring back, until Hoborg decided to do a careful step into the being's direction. He hadn't expected to see the stranger move now, but as he came slowly closer the eyes of the being followed him. All right then...
"Um... hello?" Hoborg greeted unsurely. No reaction by the creature.
Hoborg closed up to it another step. The being backed a bit, staring up at its opponent who was, with that big impressing crown, definetely at least one head taller than itself. Small clinking sounds came from its left arm while it moved.
Hoborg stopped. So, it DIDN'T seem to be dangerous. Not with that way it was acting. He said, in his calmest voice he could manage: "Who are you, stranger?"
The being blinked at him. Then its face lit up to a wide smile.
Reorganizing its body to a sort of proud posture, stubbing its right thumb quite hard to its chest and rattling like a bag full of plantpots it said: "Meee Noremen!"
His voice was quite pleasant. By the way he looked Hoborg had expected a more... echoing voice, like Bil maybe. But Noremen sounded more like Willie, just his voice was very smooth and even a bit timid.
Hoborg relaxed. This guy was DEFINETELY not dangerous. "Hello, Noremen. I am Hoborg, ruler of the Neverhood, and these -"
He made a wide gesture into the direction of the other Hoodians in the room.
" - are my sons and grandsons. Where do you come from?"
Noremen seemed to be frozen again, with his thumb to his chest and the wide grin. But just when Hoborg wanted to see if he was alright, the half-metallic being lowered his arm and said: "Meee Noremen."
Hoborg looked surprised. Noremen seemed to be at least a little bit like Bil... But just to make sure...
"Can you talk?" he asked, hoping not to sound impolite.
"Meee...." the being stopped. His grin vanished and was replaced by an expression between wondering and shock. He looked at the box-like device on his right wrist. A red light was blinking gently. Noremen lifted his other arm, knocking carefully at the glass of the little box with his metallic finger. The blink stopped. He turned to Hoborg again.
"Sorry", he said, smiling slighly. "Pass-out."
"A what?" asked Hoborg, fascinatedly looking at the little red light in the box-device.
"Happens sometimes. Tis me pass-outs. Can't do anything about it." Noremen said, shrugging indifferent.
"Um... yes." Hoborg decided not to go any deeper into that topic. "Now, Noremen, where DO you come from?"
The cyborg smiled. "From Ottoborg's Chunk of Land, of course. He made me about thirty years ago."
"Ottoborg?" The name was quite familiar to Hoborg. And not just to him... Willie appeared from somewhere between the crowded Hoodians in the room and stepped in front of Noremen. He had a long thoughtful look at him. Then he grinned so that the whole bandwidth of his teeth showed.
"You are Willie's li'l brother then!" he exclaimed.
Noremen looked surprised when Willie suddenly hugged him in a hearty way only brothers would do.
After a minute or so Wil let off him again, clapping his hands twice and playing Mr. Smile while saying: "Willie happiiiiiie!"
Noremen scratched his head with his left claw-hand, making a metal-on-metal sound that just could be described as 'icky'.
"You are me brother?" he asked. "But how do you come here?"
Willie stared dreamingly at Nore, imagining all the fun things he could play with him.
Instead some Hoodian from out of the crowd took the question: "Erm, Mr. Robot, I think it's more 'How did YOU come here?'..."
Noremen turned into the direction where the voice had come from.
"Well", he said smilingly, "*I* came here with...." he stopped and put a finger to his mouth while thinking. "Errrr..."
All Hoodians stared eagerly at him.
"Ummm...." Noremen rolled his eyes, trying to remember.
"Yeees?" the Hoodians asked, closing a bit to Noremen to be sure to hear the answer.
"Iyeeeee.... forgot..." he looked aghastly at them. "Can't remember... just that I was asleep and when I woke up I was here."
Hoborg interrupted him: "Asleep? When DID you wake up exactly?"
Noremen turned to the ruler of the Neverhood.
"I woke up when you were talking to those other two beings - the one with the two stem-things on his head and the strange brown-white guy with the three stems."
Rem, who stood somewhere between the others, jumped up and down and shouted: "He's talking about me! Hey, he's talking about me, guys! Watch it, that fellow is my friend!"
He was ignored.
"You were asleep up to THAT point?" Hoborg asked slighly confused. "But you were standing there. Your eyes were open all the time!"
"So what?" Noremen replied, not understanding what Hoborg's point was.
"You ALWAYS sleep like that?" The king wanted to know.
"Yes, why not?" the cyborg shrugged, faintly rattling, "It's quite comfy."
"If you say so..." Hoborg said doubtfully, then continuing in normal tones: "But WHEN you were awake, why didn't you show us?"
Noremen blinked. "I was frightened, of course. How should I have known if you were dangerous?"
Hoborg scratched his head, "Of course... I see your point."
Willie, still standing in front of his brother and grinning, seemed to return from wherever his mind had been.
"You wanna play? Willie knows many games."
Noremen looked at him. "Em... I dunno... this here is all so confusing to me..."
Willie didn't change his posture or tones while answering: "Ok. You play later then. Want apple?"
He pulled one out of his belt-pocket and held it to Noremen's eyes.
Nore blinked. When he carefully took the apple in his right hand and examined it, he answered: "I'm... not hungry at the moment. But... thank you anyways..."
He lifted his left hand to the same level of his right. A little humming noise could be heard when a small hatch opened in the metallic hand where normally the palm would be. Noremen stomped the apple into the hole and closed it again.
Rem, still standing between all the others, but peeking over their heads by standing on his toe-tips, widened his standard-grin and exclaimed while looking at Noremen's metal-arm: "Cooool. I'll have one of those, please."
The others just watched fascinated.
Hoborg started the conversation again: "Then... you want to have a... lie down... or whatever? You can stay in this room and... and have a nap, if you want."
Noremen thankfully waved his hands and shook his head, smiling again: "Oh nono."
He looked at the assembled Hoodians. "I think I slept long enough now. I'm alright. Really."
Just when he had finished that sentence a sudden *fritz* sound came from him, and little sparks danced around Noremen's hoop and alarm-box. He twitched and grew stiff for a moment, staring like under shock. A moment later his body relaxed again, but his eyes still stared at nothing.
All people in the room had automatically stepped back a bit (except for Willie, who just blinked and stopped smiling for a second), putting their hands in front of their faces. Now they looked at the cyborg again.
Hoborg examined him unsurely. "Noremen?"
Nore looked at him, but more out of reflex then with intention.
"Hey!" he said in an alarmed voice. "There! Behind you! There's a big laser-gun pointing at us!" he stretched out his finger to the direction he was looking at.
Hoborg turned questioningly around. Then back to Noremen.
"We don't have any 'laser-guns' here..." he explained quietly to Willie's brother.
Nore lowered his finger and looked puzzled: "Have not?"
Willie, who's eyes had abruptly followed Noremen's finger, looked at Hoborg, too. "Have not?"
The little red light on Noremen's box-device blinked, a bit faster then it did the first time when he had acted strange. The cyborg looked at it. The light went out.
He looked around wildly, like searching for something. Then he ran a few steps to the crowd of Hoodians in the room. The Hoodians stepped back, looking for the exit.
But Noremen stopped in front of them and stood there in a posture that looked like he was chased by a Weasel.
He stared at the people in front of him, shouting out: "Alert! Run for your lifes! It's getting closer! It's everywhere! Close the gates! Close the ventilation shafts!!! It's almost there!"
They looked at him strangely, while he was standing there and waving wildly with his arms.
Noremen put his robot-hand over his head. The little hatch in there opened again, and with a 'click' the apple he had put in shot out again, with a speed that catapulted it almost up to the high ceiling of the Throne Room.
Then it came down again. And it hit him right on the head, producing a loud and echoing "CLING".
His arms dropped and he became quiet.
The cyborg breathed out, looking again at the box around his wrist. The red light was gleaming peacefully.
He felt the stares of Hoodians on him, so he lifted his head and focused on them.
"What's up?" he asked innocently.
Hoborg came to his side, lying his hand on Noremen's shoulder. "Say, do you have that often? Those... 'pass-outs', I mean?"
Nore looked up at him.
"I had a pass-out?"
Hoborg was worried. "I think so."
Noremen looked down and thought for a while.
"Must have been a big one - I can't remember."
"There are different pass-outs?" Hoborg asked.
"I guess." he looked up again. "I can only say what me dad told me."
Noremen's face became a concentrated expression, and he rubbed his head with both hands while staring into empty air. Then he spoke, still in his voice, but with strange new stresses:
"Here, son - take dis alarm-device an' wear it. It'll gonna help yer to control dese pass-outs better, which I unfortunately couldn't get rid of. De red light shows your mind. If it's off, yer mind is off. I tink dere're three phases of pass-outs: A small one, when de light blinks a bit. Don't worry about dat. Then dere's a medium pass-out. Should be shown by a pretty fast blink. Better find someone who can shake yer mind in again, or just wait 'til it's over. De third are BIG pass-outs. The red light goes out, just like yer brain. As far as I know de only thing that helps is a hit onthahead... Maybe I can find out someday what's wrong with yer wittness, boy."
Noremen looked at Hoborg.
"What was that?" Quater's son wanted to know.
"A mind record." the cyborg explained as if that was enough to know everything.
"You are strange, Noremen." Hoborg said.
They were talking another few hours, about who they were and how life was on the Neverhood. One thing was for sure: No matter how Noremen came to the Hood, he'd probably not leave it again for a long time. And that was perfectly okay, since everyone liked the cyborg and his little peculiarities. And he liked the Neverhood, since it had so many nice beings around, even a brother of him, and this world was so much bigger than his father's. They even had a mechanic...
"And you're sure THAT thing will help me with me hand?" Noremen asked a bit worried.
Tramen took the BIG screwdriver and started to work on the hatch, which didn't close since the incidence with the apple.
"Yep. I am pretty sure."
"I always had to repair meself..." the cyborg said thankfully. "And that isn't easy, I can tell you."
The other Hoodians and Hoborg were still around, but they were sitting on the ground, forming a circle, since they all had have a nice time the last few hours by telling stories to one another.
But one story they hadn't heard yet, something they noticed now when Tramen repaired Nore's arm. Why hadn't they asked THAT before?
"Say, Noremen, what is up with your arm?" wondered one of the Hoodians.
Noremen lifted his right hand to his eyes and looked questioningly at it.
"The OTHER arm, Nore." Hoborg said with a slighly amused sigh.
Noremen looked at his left arm.
"Ooooh", he said, "Well... it got kinda squeaky lately..."
"No problem there." Tramen threw in and took an oil-can that was standing next to him and his other tools.
Then he continued on the hatch.
"But what HAPPENED to it? Why is it metal?" the one Hoodian wanted to know.
Noremen turned his head to him.
After a while he started to smile understandingly.
"Oooooooh! Well, it got bitten off by a Victoid."
Some of the Hoodians looked at him with big eyes. One of them said: "Ewww..."
Nore went on: "But that's okay. Me father knows EVERYTHING about robots. So he made me this great new arm. It's much better than the old one. I can even put me stuff in it."
"Where did you put your stuff before?" another guy asked.
"Dunno. Can't remember." He shrugged.
Tramen looked up from his work.
"Hold still, Noremen. Or do you want a screw falling into your arm accidently?"
The conversation went on.
"And what happened to your head?" asked Klimo, who sat next to Nore.
"I DON'T WANNA KNOW IT! I DON'T WANNA KNOW!" said a small skinny guy, covering his ears.
"Oh, THAT I have since me birth." The cyborg tried to look at his own hoop.
"Me dad told me that he made me because he didn't like only having company by two big robots, and he wanted to have someone he can really talk to. Appie and Togor only could say their names. AND he told me that he had the idea to create me when he found some metal part on the ground that was surely lost by one of the robots."
He pointed at his hoop and grinned. "This."
"It's a robot's part?" Hoborg asked.
"Yeah." Noremen assured him. "Me dad said that this could be the reason why me lights go out sometimes."
"Does that hurt when your 'lights go out'?" Klimo said.
"No. I just can't remember things." Noremen answered matter-of-factly.
Hoborg's eyes were caught by the metallic hoop.
"And... maybe if Tramen tries to... repair your head... somehow?"
Nore looked amused. "Oh, you can't repair me HEAD. I'm no machine."
Tramen let off the cyborg's arm and put the screwdriver away.
"All done. Try to close the hatch."
Nore looked at his hand when it hummingly closed. He smiled.
"Cool. Thank ya."
"Don't mention it." Tramen answered while collecting all his other tools from the ground.
"Well, Noremen", Hoborg said, standing up from his sitting place, "you'll be here now for a long time. I think we slowly should arrange some nice living place for you. And then you can go out there if you want and explore your new home."
"Great!" answered Noremen.